Gauteng

In the article below, gold expert Neil Phillips looks at the origins, growth & decline of the greatest goldfield on earth. He also hints at hopes of new discoveries. The article was first published in the The Australian Geologist, issue 200, page 21.

September is Heritage Month but it is a downer when the news comes through that the museum and heritage site Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia has closed its doors permanently. The news of closure announced by the CEO and founder of the Liliesleaf Trust, Nic Wolpe, son of Harold Wolpe, comes as a surprise.

I appear as a man 
starting another story

I’m accelerating along the M2 West
heading for the Vaal
I’m gently swaying and clacking over 
the Fordsburg viaduct on the Trans Karroo
I’m on the R21 to OR Tambo 
for my Cape Town flight  

A migrant between the book ends of
my life; Johannesburg the library

Egoli, we grew up together, 
learned to love one another 
about you 
I waxed loquacious 
I was your scribe
delivered multiple tellings 

I have wondered for a while who the man behind the sauve and dashing whatsapp photo is. So, I called coffee, and discovered that heritage architect Brian McKechnie is a down-to-earth, relaxed bloke, passionate about the gracious old buildings in the city and still invested in one of them, Anstey’s in Joubert Street. He laughs when I ask about the photo, saying he was asked to model for Meghan McCabe, who needed images for her photography portfolio.

 

I would like to pay tribute to Clive Scott who passed away in July 2021 at the age of 84. He was a much loved and talented actor who performed on the stage and television during a long career. My tribute takes the form of writing about Dykeneuk, exploring the architect and the context of the grand home. Scott was Clive's professional name; his real name was Clive Cleghorn and he was married to Margie Cleghorn for over 50 years. Dykeneuk has been the Cleghorn home since 1982. It is one of those special heritage gems of Johannesburg.

The response below was prepared by Wynand Dreyer PrEng, on behalf of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, to the process initiated in September 2020, by the Transformation and Spatial Planning Unit of the City of Johannesburg, towards the review and update of the Spatial Development Framework 2040 (SDF).  The commentary deals with best practice and the requirements that legislation imposes on authorities, including the responsibility of the City to compile an inventory of its heritage resources, talks to practical steps required to give effect to the SDF and

The article below forms part of a larger piece by Kathy Munro on the Dix House in Kensington. Click here to read.

Langermann and the development of Kensington

Research into Herbert Baker’s domestic architecture in Johannesburg led me to return to Doreen Greig’s excellent book Herbert Baker in South Africa. Appendix B lists Herbert Baker’s projects and a house in Yeoville at 10 Yeo Street designed in 1910 under the names of Baker and Masey for Mrs G B Given-Wilson is listed. It belongs in the body of work labelled the “Transvaal houses” of Herbert Baker.

I regularly exercise in the Union Buildings gardens and since 2017 I have been advising the Department of Public Works of water leaks and other maintenance issues, most of which were dealt with promptly by Bennitto Motitswe, but since his transfer, things have gotten much worse. I sent a comprehensive list of issues to the Department in May 2019, along with photos. Apart from a water leak repair and a significant improvement in the maintenance of the gardens themselves, none of the other more serious issues I raised have been dealt with.

Harking back to Johannesburg's first gold mining boom, a rare stamp battery has been revived by a specialist restoration project. The centrepiece of an open-air mining display in central Johannesburg, this massive piece of mining machinery can be seen standing tall at the corner of Hollard and Main Street.

 

The following is an extract from a paper by Art Historian Professor Alexander Duffey in which he explores the many artists who contributed in one way or another to establish the Union Buildings as an important icon, not only of Pretoria, but also South Africa. These artists can be grouped into two distinct categories: those who contributed directly to the embellishment of the buildings and their surroundings and those who made representations of the buildings and their surroundings.

The remains of the largest fortification built by the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) is still to be seen today on Strubenkop in Lynnwood, Pretoria. The site today is a nature reserve managed by the City of Tshwane but apart from the remains of the fort nothing much is left on the hill. It is therefore believed that the reserve was proclaimed to preserve what was left of the building.

At age 6, while riding on the top deck of a bus to the German school I attended in Edith Cavell Street, Hillbrow, I noticed a white cylindrical post with black vane on the east side of Oxford Road just after crossing Glenhove Road.  I asked my older sister and father what it could be but they had no idea. Although seeing it daily intrigued me then, I thought no more of it and, in time, forgot about it after our family had moved premises.

The township of Parkmore was established in 1904 – making it one of the oldest northern suburbs in the Johannesburg Metro. Parkmore was proclaimed in the aftermath of the South African War (1899-1902). The ending of hostilities brought with it the expectation of economic stability and a rise in property prices in what had become the British colony of the Transvaal.

 

This article is about William English, (1875-1915), a miner originally from the North-East of England who through hard work became a mining engineer in the gold mines of South Africa. It is based on the website williamenglish.net which includes his journal, poems and additional commentary. Creating the website has been a project for William’s descendants, Hilary Norris and Larry Cunningham.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Boer War, the small mining and railway village of Hattingspruit, only a few kilometres north of Dundee, grabbed some reflected limelight. This was due to the incredible physical exertion of 7 000 Zulu workers who walked from the Witwatersrand Goldfields back to their homes in Zululand.

The South African Constitution of 1996 introduced new forms of local government and radically changed the map of governance structures throughout the country. As has been the case since 1910, the central and provincial governments play a controlling role. However, at a local level – towns, cities and even townships and suburbs – remain arenas in which citizens are empowered to make their voices heard directly, as happens almost daily with street protests about inadequate service delivery.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie describes one of Joburg's hidden gems, the camera obscura at Museum Africa. She also delves into the significance of the Bensusan Collection held by the museum. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on the 14 February 2006Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Did you know that there’s a periscope on the top of the Museum Africa building, looking down on the goings-on of Newtown?

Rosendal is a townhouse complex in the heart of Rosebank, designed by the Johannesburg architect, Michael Sutton, in 1988. With only 16 units in two rows of semi-detached double storey houses, the complex is quintessentially understated. It nonetheless represents a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Johannesburg, being both a refined example of Sutton’s townhouse typology, and also an elegant synthesis of a South African style and postmodernism.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie reveals the story of Dee Mashinini and his family's painful experiences in the aftermath of the June 16th uprisings. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on the 22 May 2007Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Life in exile for the teenagers who survived 16 June 1976 was hard. Some left their homes at 15, adrift in a strange country and without emotional support.

It is with regret that I inform the heritage community of Johannesburg that a special Robert Howden house has been demolished. No application for demolition was received by the Joint Plans Committee East of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and it would appear that an application for demolition was neither received nor approved by the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency of Gauteng (PHRAG).

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie reports on the illegal demolition of structures at Brixton and Braamfontein cemeteries. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 2 June 2011Click here to view more of Davie's work.

In mid-April 2011 two heritage buildings were illegally demolished in the city’s oldest cemeteries, Braamfontein and Brixton, resulting in a charge being laid with the police.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie uncovers some wonderful Joburg history. Read on for some of the city's fascinating 'firsts'.  The piece was first published on 24 November 2003Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Johannesburg is a modern city in every sense – tall skyscrapers, a complex network of freeways, a bustling metropolis of industry and commerce, and a hub to which people are drawn.

 

Jeppestown, to the east of the Central Business District of the city, is one of Johannesburg’s oldest residential suburbs, proclaimed soon after gold was discovered in 1886. It was originally a neat little suburb for the middle classes of early Johannesburg. Most of the houses and small blocks of flats are now in desperate need of a coat of paint and repairs, but look like they were originally comfortable places in which to live, well-designed and part of a sustainable, liveable neighbourhood.

When Johannesburg’s august Mayor, Harry Graumann (later Sir Harry), welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Connaught on 28 November 1910 he presented the Royal couple – who had come to South Africa to open the first Union Parliament – with a lavish commemorative book. This described the Town Engineer’s duties in terms of roads, parks, gas, electricity provision and other grand projects, but there was not a word about sewage, such were the Edwardian sensitivities to this delicate subject.

From the mid-1940s, the Witwatersrand East Rand and its gold mining and industries were the powerhouse of the South African economy (Bonner, 2000) and these industries drew in thousands of work seekers, fast-forwarding urbanisation in this region and creating a huge struggle for housing and transport. But very few of these hopeful migrants became rich, and many lived in dire poverty and squalor. There were massive systems of conflict.

Clive Chipkin passed away peacefully on January 10th 2021 in Johannesburg, aged 91. Clive was born on 21st March 1929 in Johannesburg, the city he made his own. He was an extraordinary person who lived a rich and full life and meant much to friends and colleagues in the heritage and architecture communities.

2013 Award of an Honorary D Arch

Approaching from “Old Melville” (Seventh Street), along Fourth Avenue, we cross Main Road, (which I think used to be called “the Muldersdrift Road”), where we find today a shopping centre, with a public swimming pool hidden somewhere in its bowels. This was where the Municipal Swimming Pool used to lie. The existing pool (pictured above and below) cannot meaningfully be compared to the wonderful facility that existed 50 years ago.

 

The American Government was assembling a site in Arcadia, Pretoria. They wanted the entire suburban block so they could build the largest embassy in Africa. One property stood between them and the full realisation of their plan, an old home called Arkleton belonging to Dr van Bergen. The Americans appointed an independent valuer to determine the market value of the property.

102 years ago, when the so-called “Spanish Flu” arrived in South Africa, there was no national health department, and no official guidance on what to do. By mid-October the death rate was so high that town councils decided to close cinemas and schools. Some schools, such as Benoni Central School, Vogelfontein school in Boksburg, and the Springs government school were converted into emergency hospitals to treat the overflow of patients who could not be accommodated in official hospitals.

On a recent visit to the Resource Centre of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation at the Holy Family College, Oxford Road, Johannesburg, a new acquisition was on display, namely a brass name plate from the architectural firm “Kallenbach, Kennedy and Furner ARIBA  Architects“. The brass plaque had been donated to JHF by Ronald Sutherland of Durban.

 

The ice-cream cart or tricycle is not a new idea and goes back to the 1920s and to Mr Wall and Sons of London. They owned a butcher’s shop but the pies they made were only popular in winter. They got the idea to make ice-cream to use factory capacity during the summer months so they didn’t have to lay off workers when no-one wanted to eat hot pies. The First World War got in the way of their aspirations, but when finally launched Wall’s ice-cream, sold from ice-cream carts, the product was an instant success.

In all I have read about the Witwatersrand I have not come to know precisely when and by whom the name was coined. I am hoping that members of The Heritage Portal can throw some light on the subject, and also reflect on the reason for the given name.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie sits down with the epic storyteller, Chris van Wyk. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 4 August 2004. Chris van Wyk passed away on 3 October 2014.

Writer and poet Chris van Wyk says he loves to skinder - “I skinder more than most women.” And that skinder or gossip accounts for a large part of his success as a writer.

In May 1900, Lord Roberts of Kandahar, Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces, was poised to culminate his illustrious military career by marching triumphantly into his enemy’s capital city and concluding the South African War. But it was a charade. There could be no victory without a vanquished foe and the Boer leaders were still at large with a fighting remnant of their army. Another two bitter years of warfare lay ahead.

 

From Here We Shall Never Move. These were the words inscribed almost a century ago onto a cross and mounted on a mulberry tree in a small village to the northwest of Pretoria by Fr Camillus De Hovre OMI.

The Belgian Oblate priest could not have known how these words would act as a forecast to the significance of the Most Holy Redeemer mission in the history of the Catholic Church in Pretoria, and in South Africa in general.

 

There is a story of a riot with much blood in the early history of the Dube Township in Soweto. It happened 11 months after the Dube hostel opened its doors on 1 October 1956. The Dube Hostel was the first government hostel in Soweto (then called the South Western Townships).

 

In 1896 Johannesburg had reached its tenth birthday. The astounding growth of the town in its first decade meant that the authorities (at that stage It was the Johannesburg Gezondheids Comite or the Sanitary Board / Committee) wanted to know about the population of the town, its origins, location, composition, religions, local industries and occupations.

The Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, has around 12 000 items in its stores, with a strong southern African ethnographic collection of beadwork, drums, headrests, wooden sculpture, ceremonial and fighting sticks, dolls, masks, basketry, sculpture, wirework and textiles. The WAM collection contains many fertility ‘dolls’ from southern African cultures, and has 58 items which are named as ‘dolls’ made by Ndebele or the closely related Ntwane group.

‘The Bird Calendar’ as it is affectionately known throughout our country and much further afield too may have become just another victim of modern technology.

The proliferation of smart phones, watches and other wonder toys that include time and date info, combined with financial considerations brought about by the effects of Covid-19 may have deprived a great many birders of their beloved desk calendar now that AECI Limited has made the decision to suspend production of its legendary Bird Calendar, at least for 2021.

Revil John Mason died on 23 August 2020 at the age of 91 years, scarcely a year after receiving the Golden Eagle award on Gaudy Day at St John’s College in 2019. Revil was born on 10 February 1929 and grew up in Saxonwold. He entered St John’s Prep in 1936. After matriculating in 1946, Revil studied at the University of Witwatersrand and obtained a B Com. degree, garnering several prizes, including the Aitken medal for the best graduate in Commerce, together with the Chamber of Industries medal and the Dean’s award.

 

Magalies Memoirs focus on incidents in the Magaliesberg region and perhaps not everyone knows that it was here, in the heart of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve, that gold was first discovered in the Transvaal, decades before diggers rushed to Barberton or George Harrison stumbled on the Witwatersrand Main Reef. “Discovered”, of course, needs to be qualified. We know from artifacts found at places like Mapungubwe and Thulamela that gold has been mined, treasured and traded for more than a thousand years – probably much longer.

Marian Laserson (nee Spilkin) architect, town planner, champion of wetlands and heritage campaigner passed away on 10 July at the Morningside Clinic of the Covid-19 Virus.

In July 1964 an International Congress of Surgeons was held at the Wits Medical School in Johannesburg. It was well attended by Surgeons from all over the world including South Africa.

At the time, I was a Registrar (a Surgeon in training and studying for a higher qualification) working in the Professorial Unit of the Johannesburg General Hospital just across the road from the Conference. It was a late Friday afternoon – July 24th 1964.

Over a period of ten years (2010-2020), a set of 20 houses of different styles located on the UNISA (University of South Africa) Sunnyside campus in Pretoria was studied informally for their spectacular deterioration and accumulation of rubbish. Several times each year since 2010, the author (an art student on the campus) visited the houses and took photographs, building up a photographic record of increased dereliction. All in all, the appearance of the houses over the years became very forlorn, yet evocative. It was like seeing Time in action.

An article by Adrian de Villiers on The Heritage Portal in 2017 highlighted the history and importance of Kirkness bricks made in a Pretoria brickyard, starting in 1888 (click here to view). At the UNISA Sunnyside campus, bricks from this historic Pretoria brickfield were used and individual bricks are lying about in the gardens, as the photograph above (taken in 2020) attests. Many famous buildings in Pretoria like the Raadsaal f

On 14 March 2020, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria, Professor Tawana Kupe officially unveiled the Pierre van Ryneveld memorial stone in its third location at the university’s Hillcrest Experimental Farm Campus

 

In Church Square, Pretoria, stands a statue of President Paul Kruger flanked by four bronze sculptures of Boers. They spent nearly twenty years, from 1902 to 1921, in England before being returned to South Africa eventually to take up their position on the square in 1954. The general belief has been that Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in South Africa from 1901 to the end of the war ‘stole’ these statues as ‘spoils of war’.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the history behind the signing of the Freedom Charter. The article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on the 24 June 2005Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Nelson Mandela was there. Walter Sisulu was there. Helen Joseph was there. Father Trevor Huddleston was there. So were 3 000 ordinary citizens, demanding a better life for all under a new, non-discriminatory dispensation.

Having graduated with the double Bachelor's degree MB Bch in 1959 after 6 years of study, I was now a brand-new Doctor.

The Medical training program at the time called for 2 more years of practical work under supervision, in a teaching hospital of one's choice before being officially qualified to practice. This was a bit like an Apprenticeship but called an Internship. Ironically we were not called Interns but Housemen or House Surgeons.

Which of our city’s architectural treasures don’t receive the credit they deserve? During lockdown we explored Joburg’s most underrated historic buildings on our Instagram and Facebook pages, and we’re happy to share them here too! 

Ahead of the annual Youth Month anniversary on June 16, a heritage plaque will commemorate Mbuyisa Makhubu, one of the most tragic victims of the mass shooting by police of protesting students in 1976.  

Aged 18, Mbuyisa became the most recognised face of the Soweto student revolt, after his agonised figure was shown around the world carrying the murdered Hector Pieterson in the iconic image by journalist Sam Nzima. Mbuyisa picked up Hector Pieterson when he was mortally wounded, and took him to the nearest clinic.

EBay has on sale a medal to commemorate the declaration of Johannesburg as a city in 1928. I was immediately intrigued. I have never seen one of these medals but I am not a collector of such items. An internet search reveals that this medal is not regarded as rare but that prices fluctuate from as little as R45 to about $10 to as much as £18. It is a bronze medal.

 

This commemorative booklet on the life of General Jan Christiaan Smuts was found at the Hospice Witwatersrand charity shop on Louis Botha Avenue, Orange Grove, about two years ago. The sale of donated items helps Hospice Witwatersrand fund their hospice activities throughout Gauteng. The Orange Grove charity shop is a place where one can discover a wide range of interesting and useful items, and often, the items donated reflect a by-gone era. Having visited the Smuts House Museum in Irene on several occasions over the years, I decided this was the obvious place t

In 1920, St John’s College was still in its infancy. The school had been established in 1898 as a parish school of St Mary’s Anglican Church in downtown Johannesburg. Soon afterwards, the social upheaval caused by the Anglo-Boer South African War (1899-1902) – including the evacuation of many civilians from Johannesburg and the deportation of the school’s headmaster by the Boer authorities – had necessitated the closure of the school for some eighteen months.

JC Smuts was born on the farm Bovenplaats, part of Ongegund near Riebeek West, in the then Cape Colony, and what is now the Western Cape, to parents Jacobus Abraham and Catharina Petronella (nee de Vries) on 24 May 1870.

 

There is no document to give an exact date, but the hill sign at Little Falls was built in the 1920s in accordance to the fashion of the time, to display signs to the new-fangled flying machines that were becoming popular after World War I.

The sign was built above the already popular swimming resort of Little Falls, on the site of the Geldenhuys, and later the Struben, homestead.

 

Contrary to popular belief, the ‘Spanish’ influenza pandemic of 1918 (which is thought to have caused as many as 50 million deaths globally) did not originate in Spain. Historians and epidemiologists are uncertain about the origins of the disease, which killed more people than had perished in the First World War, which was in its final phase when the pandemic struck. Various hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origins and spread of the 1918 flu. For example, it has been posited that the disease originated in military camps in France, the United Kingdom o

Herbert Maurice John Prins, distinguished architect, professional conservation and heritage architect and practitioner passed away on Wednesday, 15th April 2020, just 12 days short of his 93rd birthday. His was a long, rich and remarkably productive life. Herbert was a role model in his work and ongoing commitment to the heritage of Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa until just a couple of months before his death. It was a joy to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2017. His professional career extended over 72 years - surely a record.

The military art collection of the Ditsong National Museum of Military History includes a watercolour entitled, “HMS Kelvin – D-Day +6” by Francis Flint. The painting is noteworthy in that it portrays three important personalities of the Second World War (1939 – 1945) – Sir Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom); Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (Chief of the Imperial General Staff) and Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts (Prime Minster of the Union of South Africa).

I hardly Knew Robin fee personally except shaking hands in a restaurant was a warm experience. But his presence in the profession was known over 3 decades & more: 1960-1990s. He embodied much of the complexity that characterised architecture over this period. Complexity?

In the Curator’s Choice display of edged weaponry at the Ditsong National Museum of Military History, are Chinese double or paired swords from the early 19th Century. The swords are decorated with dragons that have five claws symbolising high rank. The museum’s Chinese paired swords may have belonged to either a Prince of the first rank or qinwang (Prince of the Blood) or a Prince of the second rank or junwang (Prince of the Commandery). 

We have two mulberry trees in our garden but I shall concentrate on one. The fact that the are two mulberry trees is an early indication that the mulberry tree readily seeds, saplings shoot and a new tree roots itself. Officially the mulberry belongs to the Moraceae family.

Today I browsed my recipe book collection and randomly pulled out a thin paper cover recipe book called The Caltex Recipe Collection (published in about 1983 by Caltex). The book is a compilation of recipes from the Caltex Recipe Calendar series over the period 1979 to 1982.

 

This tree is one of those eternal landmarks of my front garden. It creates shade and one can mark the seasons by the performance of the tree, whether it's the berries on the ground in autumn or the lilac flowers on the tree (spring) which then drop their small flowers in light off-white profusion (autumn). The falling blossoms create a floral carpet on the lawn. The flowers appear in the spring and have a light scent but by this time of the year (late March) have given way to the berry fruit.

This piece was written on Day 1 of our 21 day stay home in the fight against the Corona virus. I have decided to try to learn something new about our garden and home and to share my writing with Heritage Portal readers during this time of quiet introspection and anxiety. We may discover that the small things within our own multiple worlds matter more than the large events beyond our control.

A 1:48 scale model of the Type VIIC German U-boat “U-96” was donated to the Museum in September 2019. The model is a true representation of the original submarine used in the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and was constructed by the donor, Mr Brian Echstein (see image above).

The Importance of the Donation

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